We see all different types of families and one of the main topics that we keep getting questions about is the role of stepparents and the best way to blend families. Our clients often want to know about boundaries as a stepparent and how they should build bonds with their partner’s children without trying to replace their other parent. So we have prepared 6 helpful tips to remember:
1. START SLOW
whether you have become the step-parent to a child whose parents have divorced or who have sadly lost a parent, it is important to remember that developing a relationship with a child takes time. As a stepparent, try not to rush things and let the relationship grow naturally. There is no exact timeline – you have to be patient. You want to make sure to build your stepchildren’s trust and does not happen overnight.
2. RESPECT THEIR PARENTS
it is important that you respect your partner’s ex-spouse and their parental authority, especially in front of your stepchildren. You should never speak poorly about your stepchildren’s other parent in front of them and should respect their decision-making. An atmosphere of respect will have the best effect on your stepchildren and will foster a healthy relationship, free of conflict of loyalty.
3. YOU ARE NOT A REPLACEMENT OF THEIR MOTHER/FATHER
while you want to become an important part of your stepchildren’s lives, it is essential that you try not to take the place of their other parent. This might seem like a hard position to be in because you still want the children to respect and listen to you, but you should become an ally and a friend at the start rather than becoming a third parent right away. Eventually, you can become a mentor to the child. This will make them less protective over their other parent and will hopefully lead to them embracing you in your new role.
4. KNOW YOUR PLACE
Do not get involved in parenting discussions between your partner and the ex: it is important to remember that the ex agreed to co-parent with your partner, and not necessarily with you. While you can discuss parenting decisions with your partner, it is up to them to make the final decisions with their ex when it comes to the children.
5. KEEP IT NEUTRAL
Do not get involved in arguments between your stepchild and your spouse: it is important to know your boundaries, especially in the early stages of a relationship. If there is an argument between your stepchild and your spouse, try to give each of them their space and let them work it out together. You can offer advice to your partner between closed doors, but the child should feel like they could come to their biological parent and have their attention without your input if that is what they desire.
6. MAKE IT CLEAR THAT THE CHILD ALWAYS COMES FIRST
Pressuring your new partner to always put you first or seeing your stepchild’s need for one-on-one time with their parent as a threat to your marriage: it is important to recognize that you should never be competing for the attention of your partner. Your partner has to be a parent first and that should remain their main priority. Try and enjoy your new role as a stepparent and see it as an exciting opportunity for you to have a new family.
Becoming a stepparent can be a challenge at first but can with time be a huge reward and a rich relationship. You have the chance to create a new family with new traditions and to develop special bonds with your stepchildren. Be patient and hang in there and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to us!
For some additional reading check out the website from kidshealth.org